Gospel according to Bono proves to be a hit among US churchgoers

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The Independent US

The music of the Irish supergroup U2 is being used by churches across the US to help spread the word and attract younger worshippers to their services.

From Maine to Georgia, churches are holding "U2 Eucharists" and using the band's spiritually themed music to reinvigorate their congregations.

The idea was started by the Rev Paige Blair, minister at St George's Episcopal Church in York Harbor, Maine, who designed the service and drew up the playlist after speaking with lay members of the church who often discussed the spiritual themes of the band's music. It helped that she is a fan and had recently seen them in concert.

"It often came up that their music was a spiritual resource and that we should do something about it," Ms Blair said. "There are a lot of spiritual themes in the song."

Among the most popular U2 songs included in the service are the R&B number "When Love Comes to Town", the eulogy to civil rights leader Martin Luther King. "(Pride) In the Name of Love" and "One", taken from 1991 album Achtung Baby, which includes the lyrics "One life, But we're not the same, We get to carry each other, Carry each other." Ms Blair, who has taken her service to other churches, said she saw nothing wrong with having the music of a rock band incorporated into the service.

"Christianity is about a lot more than what you wear," she said, when asked about Bono's seemingly un-Biblical penchant for leather trousers. "Anyway, I have known some members of the clergy who have leather clothes."

A U2 service was recently held at the Grace Episcopal Church in Providence, Rhode Island, where the Rev Robert Brooks welcomed worshippers with earplugs. Ushers then handed out fluorescent glow sticks as multicoloured streamers flew over worshippers' heads. A similar U2 Eucharist last November at All Saints' Church in Atlanta was reportedly equally popular. The organiser, Laurie Haynes Burlington, said she and her husband were surprised when 500 people showed up.

Christian Scharen, 39, a Lutheran pastor and professor at Yale Divinity School, has written a book about the spirituality of U2's music and has argued that the band are heavily influenced by Christianity. "People who have these liturgical resonances in their bones, they go to a U2 concert and they just get it," he said. "In some sense, I think it was just a matter of time before this started happening." Bono has previously said he worships God through music. Some of the band's early music was sold in Christian bookstores in Dublin.

Ms Blair believes that it is only a matter of time before U2's music is included within the Episcopal church's authorised hymn book. She said: "There's a gift they have in speaking to the human soul."

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